Challenging My Ideas of Harm Reduction

Justine Community Mental Health and Addictions 0 Comments

Hey everyone

This is officially my first entry of 2015, wow what a year 2014 turned out to be. Sorry for there being such a large gap since my last entry. The end and very beginning of the year turned out to be very busy for me as it is for most people. I hope everyone’s holidays were great and the New Year has started off enjoyable.

My classmates and I recently finished off what I think was one of my biggest learning curves of the program. It was a 6 week course all about harm reduction. During this course I had to do a lot of self-reflection. I had to take a look at my own beliefs and values. To be honest with you before I started this course any time anything to do with harm reduction was mentioned I cringed. I cringed at what I thought I knew from my own limited experience and understanding of what harm reduction was. I completely had contempt prior to investigation.

When I thought of harm reduction I only saw it from a drug using stand point, not a safety point of view. As I have stated in my earlier blogs I am in recovery for my own addiction.  I have tried many different ways to get away from my addiction, anything from changing what I was using to moving across the country and the only thing that seems to truly work for me is staying absent from all mind altering substances, and watching my behaviors so that I don’t get caught up in obsessive behaviours that lead to new addictions. For myself when I like something I usually like it a lot and start to do it excessively to the point where it starts to harm my life. This is just what I feel works best for me. Everyone is different and what works for some may not work for others.

Anyways having been through my own addiction and growing up around it when I thought of harm reduction I automatically went straight to the idea of handing out needles for people to inject drugs, providing people with drugs or drug substitutes like methadone, prescription heroin or alcohol. For myself the idea of doing those things made me feel very unsettled. I felt like it was morally wrong for me to do those things, I felt like those things went against everything I stood for. At the time I felt like when handing out those things I would potentially be giving people the very thing that was killing them in the first place and saying it is okay to abuse drugs.

After doing this course I have learn quite a few things and I would like to share them with you. First off I want to say no matter how you feel about this subject, stay true to yourself. You don’t have to agree with anything I say or anyone else says. It’s okay to have your own opinion on all things in life and no one has a right to tell you differently. Now having said that, make sure your opinions are based on things you know to be true for yourself. Research things, find out if they really are what they appear to be, because you might just find they are not at all what you originally thought they were. There are many different types of harm reduction, there is harm reduction for addictions, mental health, sex, and many things we actually do on a daily basis are harm reduction.

Here’s a few simple examples of harm reduction we practice daily. Brushing our teeth, wearing a seat belt, putting on deodorant, using a designated cross walk, and tying your shoelace up are just a few silly things we do that keep us for the most part safe and we don’t even question the idea of it being a reduction of the harms we may face at any given time. Now here’s where the tricky part was for me. It was easy for me to say yea okay yay harm reduction to all those things, but it was like I had a mental block when it came to addictions. I was so set in my own opinions that I couldn’t even listen to the beauty that was being presented to me.

What I have learned about harm reduction that didn’t completely change my beliefs but made it a lot easier for me to be supportive was the idea of safety. When giving out a clean needle you may be saving a person’s life, you can’t change the fact that they are going to use, but you can change the fact of whether or not the needle they were going to use is contaminated with viruses that will harm them even more. It helps keep the spread of things like HIV and Hepatitis C from being passed around from users sharing needles because they don’t have enough clean ones or can’t get any clean ones and use what is available. When I started this course I was completely against the idea of the safe injection site down town, but the more I learn the more I grew to appreciate the fact that it’s there. Insite offers people the service of safety, when people are using many dangerous things could happen in the blink of an eye, what Insite offers is a safe place with nurses and staff on site so that if anything happens to you while using you are able to receive immediate medical attention. You’re not alone and you’re in a clean environment. The amazing part about harm reduction that I can see today is, it meets individuals where they are at not where we want them to be at, we can help keep people safe without pressuring them to be something or do something to society’s standards. We are potentially giving individuals a better quality of life and to me that is more important than just not helping someone because of circumstances.

Today I have a very different view then I did in the beginning and I am very grateful for the experience. This does not mean I 100% agree with all things, but like I said it’s okay to have your own opinion. Today I’m just working on keeping my mind open so I may better help people, because at the end of the day I feel the most important part of this career is helping individuals be safe and helping them have a life that they are happy with even if that means it’s different from our own ideas. I am so pumped about this subject right now that I could go on for days so I am going to end here, but if you have read this entire thing and you want more information or just want to chat about the course or anything related feel free to leave me a comment and we will chat.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *